A mixed media artwork by British artist Ash Fitzgerald is currently being shown as part of the Faith and Form exhibition at the Anne Frank Centre in New York. The piece entitled Passing Through (A Golems Journey) has been chosen to feature along with 21 other artists and members of the Jewish Art Salon.
Fitzgerald describes the experience as “very exciting and has garnered a great response, it has been an eye opener because I was so nervous about sending it.” Fitzgerald, 49 from East Dulwich, explains the journey of how his piece was created “The idea came to me when I was doing my MA course at City and Guilds, straight away the Golem appeared, manifesting everything, from death to life. The whole idea was to create something out of nothing.”
Probed further Fitzgerald confided “It all emanates from a near death experience I had twenty years ago. I was struck down with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, which is a severe viral infection, a creeping, silent illness that is debilitating. I was in hospital for almost 5 months.” It was at this juncture, where he describes himself as being at the “lowest point of life,” that he had the realisation that this was a sign, a light bulb moment. He began to identify with the Golem and started expressing this through his art, determined it “had to mean something.”
Fitzgerald says the painting, produced a year ago, is “technically a drawing of the Golem using old fashioned dip-pens on an abstract background using acrylic, oil and ink.” The Golem wanders along at the bottom of the piece, his outlined, mythical body blending into an empty landscape, representing the transparency of life.
He talks of his connection to the Golem. “He is a servant, an anti hero, more of a traveller, a wandering Jew and I identify myself with that.” When asked how being Jewish informs his work, he explained “I didn’t want to be known as a Jewish artist, it became a very slow burner for me, it took me years to get there.” He continues, “The Golem is found in Jewish mysticism and my influences come from my maternal Grandmother, who told me that you always take your Judaism with you. Ever since then I have carried it with me, as a spiritual guidance.”
Asked what other artists inspire him, Fitzgerald says “My biggest influence is the German artist and sculptor Anselm Kiefer, he took on a lot of challenges, touching on Jews, Gods and Germans.” Fitzgerald plans to visit New York and see his piece before the exhibition finishes. What is next for him? “I’m heavily influenced by comics, the Golem is in a lot of comics and I never knew. I want to do a series of paintings and then storyboard it into comics adding a narrative, using the Golem to send a message.” And he plans to collaborate with Leeds based artist Gillian Singer, whose light box installation was also chosen to be part of the Faith and Form exhibition.
As this piece depicts a journey, does the Golem ever reach its destination? Fitzgerald concludes, “The Golem stops when he finds his home, when he feels it.” And has Ash Fitzgerald found his home? “I’m still looking. I’m still touching and learning, falling and getting up.”